Robert Jeffress - A Night To Remember
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. You've chosen a great day to join us because today, we're beginning a brand-new study in the book of Daniel called, courageous living in a pagan world. In scripture, God clearly defines the consequences that await those who reject him. Still, millions of individuals in our own nation and around the world openly choose to ignore God's warnings. Today, we'll open to Daniel chapter 5 for a compelling lesson on repentance. My message is titled, a night to remember on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
What would it take for God to get your attention? The loss of a job? The breakup of an important relationship? A bad report from the doctor? The death of a child? Last time in Daniel 4 we saw that God will go to any means necessary to communicate his message to us. Not because he hates us, but because he loves us. We saw that in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. God went to some unusual lengths to humble Nebuchadnezzar. He afflicted him with the disease of Lycanthropy - he made him think he was an animal: a disease still prevalent today. And Nebuchadnezzar spent 7 years grazing like an animal in the palace courtyard. And finally Nebuchadnezzar recognized that God was not just the God of Israel - he was the only true God.
Now tonight, when we come to Daniel 5 we see once again God going to extreme measures to communicate with another king with far different results. You know there's a saying that those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it. We're going to see a living illustration of that truth tonight in the case of Belshazzar and the fall of Babylon. If you have your Bibles turn to Daniel 5. Daniel 5. Now remember the first four chapters of Daniel deal with Daniel and his interaction with king Nebuchadnezzar who was the king of Babylon. However, when chapter 4 closes and chapter 5 opens, several significant things have happened that I want you to write down.
First of all, when we come to chapter 5, about 23 years have elapsed in the white space between the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5. Secondly, Nebuchadnezzar has died. He was succeeded by a number of sons, and in-laws, and usurpers - none of whom lasted very long. Now, history tells us that the last king of Babylon, before Babylon was overtaken by the Medo-Persian Empire, the last king of Babylon was a man named Nabonidus. He was the last king of Babylon, history tells us.
However, this presents an interesting problem because when we come to Daniel 5 we find that a man named Belshazzar is the last king of Babylon: before Babylon is overtaken. Now for decades critics of the Bible have used this as a prime example of why you can't trust the Bible and specifically why Daniel is a forgery. They've said over and over again: why history tells us that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon, and here we find that the last king of Babylon was this man named Belshazzar. So you can't trust the Bible.
But guess what happened? Archeological discoveries have once again proved that the Bible can be trusted. Archeological discoveries included what is called the Nabonidus cylinder told an interesting story. The story is that Nabonidus was indeed the last king of Babylon, but he wasn't a king who was interested in politics. He liked to travel. Politics bored him. And so he spent many years away from Babylon. He'd spend extended jaunts in Arabia on these archeological discoveries and he knew that wouldn't make for good rulership of the monarchy, and so Nabonidus had a son, or a grandson named - guess what - Belshazzar. And Belshazzar became the co-regent with Nabonidus. Now we find all this out through extra-biblical information. And so Nabonidus shared the rulership of Babylon with his son or, we're not sure, grandson named Belshazzar. This is one more instance where archeology has confirmed the historicity and the validity of the Bible.
Now, the third thing that has happened here is that Babylon is under siege. The prophecies of Daniel 2. Remember the prophecies God gave to Nebuchadnezzar? That Babylon, the head of gold would not remain forever, but it will be overtaken by another empire - the Medo-Persian Empire? Well, when we come to Daniel 5, the Medes and the Persians have been besieging the city of Babylon for two and half years. They have been on the outskirts of the city. They have gained territory in Babylon. And yet the residents inside the city wall, including Belshazzar, didn't feel threatened at all.
The fact is they had city walls that were 350 feet high, 87 feet wide, like a 6-lane highway. They felt like they were invincible. And not only that, they could grow their own produce inside the city, they were self-sufficient. They had all the water they needed. The Euphrates river flowed right in the middle of the city. They were invincible or so they thought. Now, it is against that background the city is under siege, the residents of Babylon are securely within the city walls: it is against that background that we find the magnificent feast described in verse 1 of chapter 5, "Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand".
Now the setting for chapter 5 is the palace of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar's palace. And many of the residents are outside of the city - they've been captured. But what was the response of Belshazzar to this coming invasion? He decided to throw a party. Now, perhaps he was hoping to distract his residents from the coming invasion. But this party was not just a buffet, ok? The fact that there's constant mention to the free-flowing wine at this party indicates that it was filled with sexual immorality. Especially when you understand that one of the Babylonian Gods Baal was the father of sexual immorality, the God of sexual immorality.
And so you have a party going on here where the wine, the alcohol is flowing: and sexual immorality is rampant. And you see that in verse 2, "When Belshazzar tasted the wine", notice when this happens now, it is when or after he tasted the wine, "He gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them". Ok?
Belshazzar's getting tipsy and he says: I've got an idea. Let's bring in all of those vessels, let's bring in all of those artifacts from that holy so-called temple in Jerusalem where the Israelites worshipped their God. Let's bring in all of those objects of worship and let's drink from them: and let's drink out of their vessels and toast to the pagan gods of the Babylonians. And that's what they did in verse 4, "They drank the wine and they praised the gods of gold and silver and bronze, iron, and stone". In other words, they purposefully blasphemed the name of Jehovah God by using the vessels that were used to worship the true God and use them to worship the god of Baal and Marduk and the other Babylonian Gods.
But in the middle of their drunken blasphemous orgy notice what happens in verse 5. The mysterious message. "Suddenly the fingers of a man's hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing". Can you imagine the reaction of that? I love Dr. Criswell's description of that night. I want you to listen to what he said in only the way he could say it.
"In the midst of the feast, while Belshazzar was drinking and praising the heathen gods in profane ways, suddenly the cup dropped from his hand. His eyes were fixed in stark terror on the wall. The joints of his loins were loosed and his knees smote one another as his gaze was frozen on the wall. I can see the eyes of all of that vast multitude follow the eyes of the king. They too see that hand, incising those characters in the stone. The vast hall suddenly became a silent as death. I can see all of their eyes focused back on the king for interpretation for courage. But instead of finding a monarch of great strength they behold a miserably weak coward literally paralyzed in fear".
That's what happened at Belshazzar's feast. Now look at the miraculous interpretation. Finally Belshazzar regained some semblance of composure and he calls out for the wisemen of Babylon, that same old gang, to come in and give an interpretation. Remember they absolutely failed Nebuchadnezzar. And he says, look at verse 8, "Then all the king's wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king". In fact, Belshazzar had said anyone who can interpret this I will give a third of my kingdom. See a third of it belonged to his dad Nabonidus, he had a third. He said: I will give a third to anybody who can interpret this. No one could interpret it.
And so verse 9 says he was greatly alarmed, he began to panic again. Why did he panic over this scene? You see, I think deep down Belshazzar knew what every person knows: that there really is a God. And all of us have a conscience. In Belshazzar's conscience though it had been badly seared and it was hardened, I think instinctively he knew he had crossed the line and that judgment was coming because of this act of blasphemy. Look at verse 10, "Then the queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles: the queen spoke and said, 'O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale'".
She was probably in another room when all of this happened. She wasn't participating in the orgy. When she heard the commotion she came in to see what was wrong, and when she saw her son ashen, she said: what is wrong? Do not be alarmed. And then when she found out about this mysterious message in verse 11 she said to her son, "During your father's day there used to be a man in whom the spirit of the Gods dwelled. He is the one if you will call on him who can provide an interpretation to this writing".
Now, understand when Daniel came to Babylon he was probably 16 or 17 years old. That was in 605 BC. We are now at 539 BC, so Daniel is in his early 80's. He's been forgotten for the last 50 years. Nobody remembers him, except the queen. She says, "I remember when your dad was alive there was a man who was able to interpret dreams". So they call for Daniel to come. They bring Daniel into the palace he's not been in now for 50 years and he stands before Belshazzar.
Look at verse 16, Belshazzar says to him, "I have personally heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make the interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as a third ruler of the kingdom". I'll give a third of my kingdom to you. In verse 17, Daniel says: you can take that offer and hang it around your beak. That's in the Hebrew, that's what it says here. Verse 17, he said, "Keep your gifts for yourself".
I don't want your money. I'm not here for your money, but I will give you the interpretation of the writing on the wall. But before I give you the interpretation I have something I want to say to you, o king: in the days of your father, your father was the mightiest ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. He gave orders and people fulfilled them. He was able to promote men, he was able to kill men at will, but God humbled him. He reduced him to an animal for 7 years and only after that did he humble himself before Almighty God. And then notice what he says, "Yet, you his son", verse 22, "Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this".
Daniel levels three charges against Belshazzar - write them down. First of all, his first charge was: you have rejected the truth you've been given. He said: Belshazzar, you knew the truth, you knew about God through your father, your ancestor Nebuchadnezzar and yet you willingly rejected that truth. Ladies and gentleman, do you understand that God holds us accountable for the revelation, the information that he's given to us about himself. The person who has heard God's word, who has a Bible available to him, who has heard the Word of God taught over, and over, and over again and yet rejects God's message will be more accountable and will suffer a greater judgment than the one who has never heard God's word. He said, first of all, you have rejected the knowledge you have received.
Secondly, he says: you have willingly disobeyed God. Look at verse 23, "But you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven". There are some of you here tonight and listening who are engaged in willingly, knowingly, and continually violating what you know to be the truth. And there is a special judgment in the Bible for those kind of defiant and high-handed sins.
Thirdly, he says: you have worshiped other gods Belshazzar. Look at verse 23 again, "And they have brought the vessels of his house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them: and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, they do not hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life and breath and all your ways, you have not glorified". He was saying: Belshazzar, you have chased after other Gods, inanimate objects, gold and silver, instead of worshipping the true God. And now it comes time therefore, because of that here is the judgment.
Look at verse 25, he says, "Now this is the interpretation that is written out: 'Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin'". It's Aramaic. It means this, the interpretation in verse 26, "Mene" it means God has numbered your kingdom. "He has numbered your days and put an end to it. Tekel" verse 27, "You have been weighed on the scales and found deficient". He says: compared to the standard, the absolute perfection of God, against which we're all measured - you Belshazzar, you've come up lacking. You've come up light, you have come up deficient. That's what word "Tekel" means - you have been weighed on the scales and you have been found deficient. And then "Upharsin" - it's a plural term simply meaning your kingdom has been divided and given over to others, to the Medes and to the Persians.
Now look at verse 30, we see the fulfillment of this interpretation, the mighty defeat. Verse 30, "That same night", the same night of this feast, "Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. And so Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two". Now we know from extra-biblical literature, we know from archeology: not only the year, we know the month and the exact date this happened. It happened the night of October 11, and the early morning of October 12, 539 BC.
We know from the cylinder of Cyrus what happened that night and it completely matches the biblical record. While everybody was drunk, the king's noblemen were drunk, they lifted the city gates and Darius and his soldiers walked into the city and without loosening an arrow, without throwing a single spear they were able to overtake the mighty kingdom of Babylon. It happened just as God had predicted.
What are the principles that we find in this passage? I want you to write three of them down. Three principles from this passage. First of all, God hates pride. In Proverbs 6 God tells us the seven things that he hates most, and at the top of the list is pride. And there is no greater demonstration of pride against God than knowingly, willingly, and continually disobeying God. That is the essence of pride and no one us can survive that. James 4:6 says, "God is opposed to the proud".
Secondly, this passage reminds us that God honors courage. Instead of telling the king what he wanted to hear Daniel told the king what he needed to hear. In fact Daniel was old man now. He didn't have anything to lose, and therefore he said: I am going to tell the king what he needs to hear. I'm going to deliver God's truth regardless of the fallout of the message.
And the third truth in this passage is: God will hold us accountable for the truth we have received. God holds us accountable for the truth that we have received. You know, it's interesting, verse 29 says that Belshazzar honored Daniel for interpreting the scripture passage. But there is nothing that says Belshazzar repented because of the message. He heard the message. He had the revelation, but he didn't repent and his judgment came that very night.
How could Belshazzar in Babylon reject the handwriting on the wall? Look at what you and I have done with the handwriting that is in the book. God has given us an even more clear revelation than Belshazzar ever received. He has said to us just like he did to Belshazzar: Mene, Mene, your days are numbered. Do you understand that? Do you understand you're not going to live here forever? Everywhere around us we have the message that we are not going to live forever. The Bible says it is appointed unto every one of us to die and then the judgment. Upharsin - one day your kingdom will be divided and left to others. Do you realize that's the message to us as well? One day everything you have spent your life accumulating: you're going to leave it all behind for somebody else.
Tekel - you have been placed on God's scales and found lacking. And the standard, the measurement that God uses to measure us against is not other people it is the perfect righteousness of his Son Jesus Christ. And unless we have a righteousness that measures up to his we are found lacking and that means we are all deficient in God's eyes. We've all sinned. We've all come short of the glory of God. The only way we can ever survive the judgment of God is to wrap ourselves in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
In revelation 20 God talks about that Final Judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, and he said at that judgment all unbelievers were standing before the Great White Throne and the books were opened, the books of every man's deeds, and the book was opened, the book of life, and if any man, woman, child was not found written in the Book of Life he was cast into the lake of fire and tormented there day and night forever and ever. You see, the real question is not: how could Belshazzar and Babylon ignore the handwriting on the wall? The real question is: how could you and I ignore God's handwriting in his book?